US Open 4th Round Interview

Maria lost to Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) (16) 7-5 4-6 2-6

Q. How did your first Grand Slam comeback compare to the expectations you had of what your first Grand Slam back would be at the beginning of the tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s been a really great ride in the last week. Obviously coming off a loss, you know, it’s a quick turnaround in order to reflect all the positives that happened in the last eight or nine days.
But ultimately I can take a lot from this week. It’s great to get that major out of the way. It was an incredible opportunity. I’m very thankful for the opportunity. I did my best.
I can be proud of that.

Q. You didn’t have a lot of matches under your belt coming in. Do you think fatigue played a role down the stretch?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I allowed the match to become physical. I don’t think I played as aggressive or was stepping in as much as I did in the first set, especially in the beginning of the match. She definitely has the matches behind her back. She’s got the variety. She’ll make you hit a lot of balls.
She likes to play with confidence. She wins a few of those rallies, and all of a sudden the momentum changes. Yeah, I definitely took a few steps back a little bit and gave her the time to dictate play and get more balls back.

Q. What exactly were you getting treatment for?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I had a blister.

Q. How much did that affect your play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not at all.

Q. Is that a result of playing a lot after not having played a lot?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Never had a blister in my life, so not really sure (smiling).

Q. If I’m not mistaken, at one point you thought that this would be your last year. Now you don’t think that way. What’s happened through all this time that’s helped you change that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, especially when I was in my middle 20s, I didn’t think that my body would be ready to compete at such a level. And I just got a completely new appreciation of what the body can do at 30 years old, or past 30 years old.
I mean, I can take a lot of examples from champions that are still playing, competing, and doing incredibly well, and that’s inspiring. But also personally, what I’m able to do with my body, when I’m training, when I’m competing. Just never really thought that I’d have that capacity.
I think that’s given me confidence.

Q. What is the biggest thing you can take away from this tournament in terms of looking forward to future Grand Slam tournaments, what you might be able to achieve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There’s so many things. I think there are a lot of positives. You know, playing four matches, playing in front of a big crowd and fans. Just competing, you know, being in that competitive environment. That’s what I missed.
You can’t replicate that anywhere, especially at a Grand Slam. So for me to come out, Monday night was a special night for me. I will always remember it. I’m very grateful to have had that opportunity to bring it.
As I said, I came in not playing a lot of matches. We all know that. Didn’t have much practice.
Obviously always disappointing to be on the losing end of things. But, yeah, I mean, reflecting back on the week, I can be happy.

Q. The Grand Slams are over now, fall circuit is coming up. Do you calibrate yourself and say, This is going to be working towards next year, or do you go full out and say, Every time I go out I’m going to try to win this tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I want to build a good base. More importantly, I want to play. I just want to play matches. I mean, there’s no secret recipe to that. You just have to go and figure it out, whether you’re ahead in a match or behind in a match.
No one’s going to teach you that. No one’s going to bring you that. It all comes in that moment, in that circumstance. I mean, I’d love to finish the tournaments well, however many I have. Yeah, have an off-season. But still a long way to go till the end of the year.

Q. You obviously were working on your book. In there or on your own, have you had time to reflect what’s really made you such an incredible player, what has lifted you above so many years to be a great star?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think just my desire to compete. I mean, we all talk about the Grand Slams and obviously how important and special they are. There’s no doubt that we all feel that when we come in the building, we come onto center court.
An element of being on the other side of the world, maybe playing a smaller event or maybe playing an exhibition, I love the feeling of playing tennis. I mean, as a woman, it’s a very powerful feeling to feel like you’re great at what I do and can be even better and improve.
I was given a gift when I was a young girl, and with the help of a lot of people, a lot of different paths, yeah, I have the ability to keep doing that.
So I think the competitiveness and the desire and the love for what I have, I mean, I think there are a lot of things that can be taught in tennis, but maybe those things just have to come from within.

Q. I believe you have two wildcards lined up for the fall, in Tianjin and Beijing.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. Right now I’m going to start in Beijing.

Q. How do you compare how you feel now after four matches to how you felt when Stuttgart was done?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, the good thing is I know I’m not going to be in an MRI machine tomorrow. I think that’s a pretty big positive (laughter). Had a few of those in the summer.
Yeah, I mean, look, three-set matches are challenging. I love being part of them. There’s an element of concentration, focus, physicality that goes into all of it. And you have to put it all together. Yeah, you just have to get through it.
There’s no doubt that not playing those matches certainly cost me today. I didn’t feel like I was thinking a little bit too much and not playing by instinct as maybe I would be in those situations, but those things happen.

Q. In Grand Slams there are a lot of points at stake. The points are what drive your ranking and eventually drives what tournaments you’re getting into. Now that the US Open is over, you may be getting around 100, that position. Is it something that you value, something you look at in terms of ranking that allows you to play certain tournaments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Ranking is a tricky thing. I’ve always had a very interesting relationship with the term ‘ranking’. I mean, I’ve always valued, like, that feel of match point and championship victories much more than I have valued comes a Monday morning or midnight and you’re on top of the list. It just feels more gratifying to be in a moment of a last point.
But you can’t take anything away from being No. 1 in the world. That is the goal. The more matches you win, the better chance that you have of getting there. That’s how I see things. I’m in a much better position than when I started in Stuttgart, so that’s great. I have many more matches to play.

Q. At 4-5, breakpoint in the second set, there was a very close call. Can you describe your thoughts on the possibility of challenging, what went into your decision not to?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually, just before my press conference I found out that the ball was in. I didn’t know that, so… Great news (smiling).
Yeah, I mean, the umpire told me that he clearly saw it. So I went on his judgment. He kind of gave me a sign that it was – I mean, I wanted to challenge it. He said, Are you sure? He said, It was pretty long. I didn’t because I had one challenge. The reason I had one challenge is because I missed two. That’s on my end, not on his.

Q. You clearly have the ability to lock things out and compete. Do you feel like you’ve had a target on your back throughout this event?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel like I’m really beyond that. I mean, there’s no other way to explain it. I think there’s only a way to show it on the court, because that’s what really matters to me.
I have so many things in my life that I’ve already been able to experience, but there’s a desire to keep going for more and to keep training and to keep living through these moments out on these courts.
That’s special and that’s meaningful. As long as I have that desire, I’ll be there. That’s what’s important to me.